by John Robson
Looks like we won’t have Bob Rae to kick around anymore. After much agonizing by columnists, he announced Wednesday he wouldn’t run for the leadership of a Liberal Party we may not have to kick around much longer either. Frankly I’m glad to see him go. But not, please, on account of his advanced age.
To hear some pundits talk, Rae is a living fossil, the coelacanth of Canadian politics, ancient as the Rocky Mountains. Why, he’s 63. Can you imagine?
The Globe’s Lawrence Martin can’t, insisting Rae would be an unsuitable leader because his party needs renewal and Rae was born waaaay back in 1948. (Along with Martin.) Why, by the next election he’d be *gasp* 67. Who is this guy, Amenhotep III? Get thee to a pyramid.
I mean really. By the time Winston Churchill was 63 in 1937 he was so senile he thought Hitler was a menace. Three years later he was good for nothing but pottering about rallying Britons in the darkest part of World War II and saving civilization. Fetch my spade, boy.
As for Sir John A. Macdonald, at 63 he drooled into a third term as Prime Minister where he vegetated for 13 years doing practically nothing besides winning three more elections, building a transcontinental railway and expanding Canada into a continental nation. I’m serious. Someone bury this geezer.
I could go on and on. In 1914 in the “Miracle on the Marne” Gen. Joseph Gallieni saved France using the new-fangled taxi to transport troops from Paris… at an appalling 65. The same age Theodore of Tarsus was appointed 7th Archbishop of Canterbury in 667 AD, where after just 23 years brilliantly reorganizing the English church he toppled over. But of course people lived longer in the Dark Ages.
No wait. We live longer now, take better care of our health and 60 is the new 50. I’m sure some boomer said that.
Look, I have no brief for Bob Rae, a man too fond of his own cleverness to waste time seeking wisdom. His recent claim that Canadians should vote Liberal to avoid “a choice between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement” all too typically savored but of shallow wit. And when the decrepitude issue was raised yet again at his Wednesday press conference, he responded with a mindless obscenity.
Is that all this former Rhodes Scholar could manage after 45 years in public life? Doesn’t he know words like “nonsense” or “preposterous” or “insulting”?
Which the question certainly was. William Ewart Gladstone, that icon of British Liberalism in its glory days, first doddered into 10 Downing St. at 57, only six years short of Rae’s absurdly vast age, and after four separate terms finally stepped down at 84 without having lost his reform chops.
Even then he was two years younger than Queen Elizabeth II, currently more popular in America than 50-year-old Barack Hussein Obama. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the woman Americans tell Gallup they most admire in the world, is a year older than Rae. Yeesh.
It might also be worth noting that when Lawrence Martin was young and the world was green and sex was just invented we started heeding the voice of youth and electing it and it didn’t exactly work out well. For instance, Ontario chose one Robert K. Rae as premier in 1990 when he was a callow 41, manifestly too raw and inexperienced, and he did a hideous job.
I won’t miss Rae. He was snide and smug and, though a decent interim Liberal leader, has been bad for our public life. But too old?
Arrant nonsense. Preposterous rubbish. Or as they said in Gladstone’s day, gammon and spinach.
So, Bob, don’t go away old. Just go away now.
Categories: Contributor Columns